“The hardest thing about growing old is that other men no longer see you as dangerous…” from ACT OF VALOR
“Arlo, I’m not saying you’re a lion in winter, but your roar ain’t what it used to be.” Boyd Crowther in JUSTIFIED
I have a friend who commands one of the most respected European military special operations units. He’s received the highest decoration for courage under fire that the United States government can give a foreign military officer. Six years ago, he attended an invitation-only training course I presented in Europe.
I was, at the time, a wreck. I was recovering from a bout with colon cancer, systemic infection that had wiped out my kidney and lung function and led to a near-death-experience, nine major surgeries, a hellish divorce and custody fight, impoverishment and depression.
Dennis Martin of CQB Services in the UK, my long time friend and collaborator, organized the training and brought me over. It was a great gift of friendship, as I was completely broke and essentially unable to work. Dennis insisted I present a training course on my neural-based training concepts to an audience of the top European and African martial arts instructors, law enforcement trainers and military special operations personnel.
My friend, I’ll call him K, was one of those attending. After several days of intense training, the program was opened up to a larger general audience of martial arts instructors, law enforcement instructors and military personnel. On that day, I was sitting in the corner, leaning on my cane, completely exhausted by the work I’d done.
One of the new students looked at me and said to his partner, “Is that Marcus Wynne?” At the same time, another new participant pointed at me and said to his partner, “Oi, who’s that fat old wanker?”
I laughed so hard I thought I’d bust the stitches in my gut.
The latter guy was grabbed by one of the instructors and taken off into the corner, and then returned to apologize. I laughed and held up my hand and said, “Dude, you were right the first time. No need to apologize, but thanks anyway.”
I sat there and, for the first time in my life, was the Old Fat Wanker sitting on the side of the class, watching my friends, colleagues and former students in front leading the way. It’s hard to describe — unless you’ve been there — what it’s like to go from being the guy in charge, the guy in front, the guy teaching or leading, to the guy on the sidelines.
After a while, I went outside and sat on a bench and listened to the sounds from the gym: laughter, shouts, the smack of pads. My friend K came out and sat next to me. He said, “How are you, Marcus?”
I told him. About what it felt like to no longer be considered dangerous among dangerous men, to feel weak among the strong, to be the lion in winter.
He listened. He got it. And he said this to me, something I will never forget:
“Marcus, something all of us who go in harm’s way must go through is age. The body cannot keep up forever. Sooner or later, the body betrays the will. And then it’s time to do something else. For you, it came earlier and harder than for some.”
“You don’t have to be the one in front anymore. You don’t have to be the one leading the way. You don’t have to be the one to kick the door. That time is past for you. What you have, and what you can still give, what you gave us this week through your gift in teaching, is experience. That’s what you have that younger men don’t. You can give that to us. And through us, with your teaching, we will give that to so many more. You have always been of Service. You still can be. You still are. Through your Service, you have value.”
Value earned through Service going in harm’s way on the behalf of others.
I’ll take that. And with great thanks of gratitude, love and respect for my friend K.
Today is about Service.
It’s about the millions who have laid down their lives in Service to Others, those who went in harm’s way on behalf of others. And those that are still out there, on the streets and in the desert and in the mountains and the jungles of the world, being dangerous in the Service of Others.
Deep felt thanks of gratitude and love to all of them — past, present and future — for their service and their sacrifice, and the sacrifice their families must accept as a consequence of that service.
Remember them, today, and for all of the other Old Lions out there, a hat tip and a glass raised to you on this day.
Thank you and God Bless You.
This quote from Chief Tecumseh is dedicated to those we remember this day:
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
Chief Tecumseh Shawnee Nation